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VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2009 / REVIEWS Add to ...

  • Country USA
  • Language English

The following reviews of festival films are by Rick Groen, Liam Lacey, Fiona Morrow, James Adams, John Doyle and Jennie Punter. Films are rated out of four stars.

Screening today

Chloe

Atom Egoyan (Canada)

***

Toronto has never looked more glamorous and sexy than it does here, "playing" itself (and not Manhattan or Cleveland or Chicago) in Egoyan's adaptation of the 2004 French hit Nathalie. With a script by Erin Cressida Wilson ( Secretary, Fur), Egoyan torques the action far beyond the Gallic cool that Anne Fontaine brought to the original. Of course, it's a twisty meditation on desire, repression, sexuality, infidelity and commitment in a cold climate - but the look, pacing and tone owe more to Brian De Palma and Adrian Lyne than Bergman, say, or Antonioni. Julianne Moore is fine (and courageous) as the big-buck Yorkville gynecologist who, convinced that her husband (Liam Neeson), a charismatic, much-travelled university music professor, is fiddling about, hires a gorgeous escort (Amanda Seyfried, of Mamma Mia! fame) to test his loyalty. A sleek film of alluring - and dangerous - surfaces, Chloe should restore Egoyan's lustre at the box-office. J.A.

Granville 7: Oct. 14, 4 p.m.

An Education

Lone Scherfig (Denmark)

****

A flat-out charmer of a film, the Sundance hit is based on English journalist Lynn Barber's memoir, adapted for the screen by novelist Nick Hornby ( High Fidelity, About a Boy) and Danish director Lone Scherfig ( Italian for Beginners). Newcomer Carey Mulligan stars as 16-year-old Jennie, in love with all things French and bored with her unsophisticated parents (a terrific Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour). When a handsome, wealthy man in his 30s (Peter Sarsgaard) takes an interest in her, both Jennie and her parents are flattered. Though this is ultimately a story of betrayal, An Education bursts with the energy of new discovery in a London emerging from postwar drabness in the early years of the sixties. L.L.

Granville 7: Oct. 14, 11 a.m.

Empire State Building Murders

William Karel (France)

**

It sounds like the stuff of a movie geek's dreams: clips from classic Hollywood film noir sliced together with a new narrative built around the Empire State Building. The "plot" features James Cagney and Lauren Bacall as mobster and moll, Kirk Douglas as the detective trying to build a case against Cagney, and all manner of other stars from the period (James Stewart, Richard Widmark, Glenn Ford) flitting past as some 50 movies are raided for useful scenes. The mosaic is given another layer by the likes of Cyd Charisse and Ben Gazarra playing along and giving Karel new interviews in character, reminiscing about times past. Alas, director Karel ( The World According to Bush) and his co-writer, crime novelist Jerome Charyn, appear so enamoured of their idea, they forget to make it add up to anything more than a curio. The novelty soon wears off. F.M.

Cinémathèque: Oct. 14, 1:30 p.m.

We Live in Public

Ondi Timoner (U.S.)

***

Before Facebook and Twitter, there was Josh Harris, an Internet pioneer who predicted the end of private life through social networking on the World Wide Web. Director Ondi Timoner (of the rock doc, DIG!) takes us deep inside Harris's bizarre ego trip over two decades, as he rose to fame and eventually squandered his $80-million fortune on parties and sometimes sadistic experiments where he used himself and his friends as human guinea pigs. In his most famous project to celebrate the turn of the millennium, he put about 100 people in an underground bunker fixed with multiple cameras, an interrogation room, an open bar and a gun range. The tension here comes from the contradictions in Harris's personality: His personal social skills are negligible, but his vision of society has been spot on. L.L.

Granville 7: Oct. 14, 9:30 p.m.

Screening tomorrow

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector

Vikram Jayanti (U.K./USA)

****

Granted an interview with the notoriously reclusive music producer just before he would be tried for murder (the first time), Vikram Jayanti has pulled off a remarkable achievement. The interview itself is riveting, Spector bouncing wildly between paranoia and megalomania, happily comparing himself to Michelangelo, Galileo and Leonardo. Then there's the music: landmark tracks, and there are plenty of them - from Spector's debut To Know Him Is To Love Him to his work with John Lennon on Imagine - are played in full. Finally, there's the exceptional use of footage from the first trial that not only recounts Spector's penchant for holding guns to women's heads but offers enough of his defence to have you question whether he did pull the trigger that night. Woven together, the three strands create not only a compelling cinematic profile, but a work of art. F.M.

Granville 7: Oct. 15, 1:15 p.m.

Crackie

Sherry White (Canada)

****

Crackie is a small masterpiece of Canadian realism. This feature debut by writer-director Sherry White is set in a bleak Newfoundland that might as well be Siberia, so remote is it from polite, middle-class Canada. Teen Mitsy (Meghan Greeley, in an astonishingly good first performance) lives with grandmother Bride (Mary Walsh), having been abandoned by her drifting, drunken mother. She needs a home, hearth and love, the same needs as the dog, Sparky (a mutt, called a "crackie" in Newfoundland), she adopts. Mitsy wants to be a hairdresser but can barely keep her little life together. She falls hard for a predatory, moronic local lothario (Joel Hynes) and recognizes the bleakness of her existence. The only transcendence is in bonding, reluctantly, with Bride. (Mary Walsh gives her finest ever dramatic performance here.) Gorgeously made, this hushed, intelligent movie marks the arrival of a major filmmaking talent. J.D.

Ridge: Oct. 15, 12 p.m.

I Killed My Mother

(J'ai tué ma mère)

Xavier Dolan (Canada)

***

A precocious 20-year old tripling as writer, director and star, Dolan earned critical plaudits for his film at Cannes this spring, and it's easy to see why. Set in today's Quebec, this is a love/hate story between a divorced mother and her gay son. Mainly hate at the outset, as the twosome suit up for shouting matches - one a high-school kid suffering from an acute case of teenage angst, the other a suburban philistine hardened to her offspring's tirades. Riveting at first, their fights threaten to dwindle into tedium, but Dolan rescues us in the third act when, without stooping to sentimentality, he taps into the bedrock of affection beneath the volcanic anger, a love much harder to express but no less deeply felt. The result is a film rather like its young protagonist - erratic yet sensitive, screaming trouble and talent at high decibels. R.G.

Granville 7: Oct. 15, 1 p.m.

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